International Fest draws hundreds - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

International Fest draws hundreds

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October 19, 2005

Albany-Nelli Eldeek watched proudly as her daughter Natalie performed a belly dance.

"It's wonderful for students to know other people's culture," says Nellie Eldeek.

Eldeek is a native of Lebanon. She says the Darton International Festival gives her family a way to enlighten others about their culture.

"The Venetian people first found glass, and this is all hand designing," she says. Their booth was just one of 38 representing nations from around the globe.

"Kenya, from Cambodia, we've got booths from Zimbabwe, from Ireland, Scotland, United Kingdom, from Albania, from Japan, from Guatemala, Venezuela, Costa Rica, The Dominican Republic and so on," says Sarah Parker President of the Cultural Exchange Club.

From dancing and singing, to short history lessons and native foods, festival-goers were introduced to many cultures they knew little if anything about.

Hiram Perez even gave a brief biology lesson about coqui frogs, tiny amphibians native to Puerto Rico.

"They mean a lot to us. When we go over there it's like home sweet, home," he says.

"It's nice that they can have fun and be educated," says Nazanin Masoodzadeghan.

Masoodzadeghan left Iran four years ago. She's hoping the festival will encourage others to learn more about Middle Eastern cultures.

"I think with all these things going on these days, they're afraid. But I think there's nothing to be afraid of. Iranian people are so sweet and nice. I try to be a good example of a person from Iran," Masoodzadeghan says.

"I'm hoping that everyone will get just a little sample of the world themselves so that they will want to grow and expand and just go out there and just see the world beyond Albany, Georgia," Parker says.

Students were also encouraged to participate in foreign language and study abroad programs. This is the third year Darton has hosted it's International Festival.

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